I don't know what to write about anymore. So much has changed. Even the simple fact that my schedule is different means that I have to adjust when and how I write. I don't have any catastrophes anymore, so there isn't anything major to really complain about, process, analyze, or deconstruct. Most of the remaining problems are slow-burning. I've said all I wanted to say through the difficult times. I didn't really hold back or pull any punches.

The primary function that my writing served was to offload the chaos in my head. I had too many thoughts, too many cyclical discussions with myself which were vaporized once I wrote them out. The week before last, I didn't really experience that. I'm adjusting better. The crushing devastation is absent from my heart now, so I feel like there isn't a huge need to reach out for support. That's partly why I didn't write a post last weekend.

Art is borne from pain. Beauty can only be revealed in contrast with the hideousness of life. I have struggles, but they're not overwhelming me anymore. I feel like I'm on top of it. That's why I think fairy tales end with "...and they lived happily ever after." The conflict is the interesting part. Once it's gone, what is there to describe? Longtime readers will remember my Wordpress blog and how I shared the dumbest things there. You can scroll back in the archives on this Squarespace blog and see the dumb things I shared before too. Surely I was still struggling with the same things, but they were all suppressed and outside of my consciousness.

Sometimes I read other blogs where nothing really happens. I think "who gives a shit that you have nothing going on?" On the other hand, I love living every day to the fullest. Describing the mundane boredom of our everyday experiences is a great way to connect with everyone. I'm not one for huge events. Instead, I funnel a lot of my energies into enjoying every day, which makes life more pleasant overall versus waiting for the special occasions. I recognize there are those that prefer the opposite. I'll try to see some friends on a regular basis, and they'll flake until a wedding or some giant get-together. Bleh. Alas, I love to glorify everyday experiences. Carrie says my blog can't just be doom and gloom all the time. She may have a point.

I was trying to make this blog into something. Instead, I realized this past week that it should just be a reflection of who I am and what I'm thinking at the moment. I think the series of posts during my hard times fit some sort of function for me and others, but there's a difference between being authentic and genuine versus trying to fit a role. I was trying too hard to make this blog into some sort of motivational, quotes-porn platform, which is another reason why I couldn't come up with a post last week. Moving forward, I want to focus on presenting my thoughts each week so that my mind avoids cyclical thinking. No more, no less.

Alas, I do have something to say this time. Simplify. I may have touched on this a long time ago, but here we go anyways. I used to try to improve my life in a lot of ways. I'd optimize my routine, my commute to work, my possessions. I was always trying to get better quality out of my experiences, but I'm reminded now that I need to simplify instead. I think in my Western worldview, I have way too much going on. Too many possessions. Too many hobbies. Too many activities in my social calendar. On the other end of the spectrum, simplicty isn't minimalism necessarily, which values having little for the sake of having little. Minimalism is a response to an excessive lifestyle that swings the pendulum too far the other way. Simplicity is finding that delicate and ambiguous balance.

I define simplicity as having enough. It's super vague, but that's part of the point, to challenge what it means to have what you need. For instance, I love to eat. I'm not a foodie, but I just like to eat delicious things. Simplicity in my diet can mean choosing appropriate portion sizes, like eating until I'm not hungry anymore. However, what is appropriate for a meal? That depends. How much energy do I need for the next few hours? What kind of energy do I need? What's the weather and climate? Will I be active soon? What time of day is it? How much can I cram into my stomach? How emotional am I at the moment? Am I eating enough if my tummy physically hurts afterwards? I do eat emotionally, so sometimes simplicity can be stuffing my face with food if it means that I'm not turning to a less ideal coping strategy like boozing.

That's the silly example. The serious one is how I've always rushed to be successful. What's the rush? Being successful early on gives you a headstart to achieve more in your lifetime, but what sacrifices are worth making in order to get ahead? When do those shortcuts start backfiring on you? I could save two minutes each morning by not brushing my teeth, but my breath will stink and my teeth will rot, which will have deeper health implications later on. There are some sacrifices worth taking, but there are also some which bite you in the butt in short order. This ideal of success was definitely forced on me by my dad. I feel like I skipped out on socializing in junior high and high school. Sometimes people in church want to separate you from the bad influences, which is why I had to go to youth group instead of hanging out with my friends. Couldn't I have just gone out with them on different nights? Technically yes, but I wasn't allowed to go then either. How can you talk to people about Jesus if you don't have good social skills or relationships with people outside of the church? We also weren't allowed to play video games because it was apparently guaranteed that we would become addicted, even though all of my friends in university played games all their lives and still got better grades than me. I had a harder time in school because I spent about three to four nights a week doing church activities, which at its peak was split between leadership meetings, band practice, small group, and youth group. Not to mention that whenever I did manage to hang out with my friends outside of that, my parents would call to check in constantly with my friends (I didn't have a cell phone) just to tell me to come home. That's all to say that my dad tried to prioritize my future by forcing me make certain sacrifices, but at the same time, he added extra challenges on top of that. I'm already successful in my own way now, and the idea of success itself needs to be challenged. I have what I need to get by, and that is enough. I'm happy with my life, and that's a truer meaning of success. Now I can simply enjoy each day.

I recognize that I've arrived in a lot of ways. Surely I'm still near the beginning of my career, but I own real estate, I'm married, and I have a job. What am I rushing towards? Especially now that Carrie's done school, there's nothing left to do but go through the daily grind. I can simplify my life, and a lot of that means to stop rushing towards some imaginary ideal of success. It also means that I should keep writing even though my world isn't falling apart anymore.

Now that I'm simplifying my life, I end up doing a lot of nothing. It's boring. Instead of squeezing every available minute out of my 3D printer, I leave it alone so that the home can be quiet and peaceful. I could clean up after doing every little thing at home, but I can get around to it later. Or Carrie can pick up after me.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le